As dues go, Jim Weider has paid a pretty impressive set. Born and raised in Woodstock, New York, he later moved to Nashville, touring with the likes of Johnny Paycheck, James Talley and others and doing some session work. In 1985, he moved into some of the largest shoes in the guitar-playing business, taking Robbie Robertson’s old spot in a reunited version of The Band. That stint included live performances and three studio albums.
Now, Weider steps out as leader of his own band, the Honky Tonk Gurus, making one of the best guitar records of the year. Weider is facile in a range of styles, from the twangy intro that kicks off the smoking title track to the stately plucking that accompanies a version of Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers To Cross”.
Both those are instrumentals, as are four other cuts among these eleven tracks. Weider doesn’t sing, but he corrals some guest vocalists here and there. Jonell Mosser provides a smoldering vocal to Weider’s composition “Love’s Like Rain”, which also features the late Rick Danko on background vocals in what was apparently one of Danko’s last visits to the recording studio. Lamont Depew guests on an audacious cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Miss Lover”, and Ernie Cate sings Bobby Womack’s “I’m In Love”.
As fine as those vocal contributions are, this record is at its best when Weider is playing — particularly when he makes his guitar mourn on “Deepest Cut”, dedicated to his late mother, or settles into the strutting boogie of “Texas Shuffle”.